A Room of One’s Own and Modern Fiction

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A Room of One’s Own and Modern Fiction

One of the first things to notice about A Room of One’s Own is that it is not a typical lecture. It rambles and flows back and forth, in and out. It is more narrative than logic. It breaks many of the conventions of a formal address. Why does Virginia Woolf choose to do this? Why choose this style, this method? One reason is to turn predominantly masculine, or traditional, thinking on its head in order to undermine its authority. There is another reason for her approach, however—one that rises from her most basic ideas about what literature and writing should be and do. Her ideas about what makes for good writing are contained in this text, if indirectly. Grasping these ideas allows the reader to see how she is able to write so convincingly, particularly since there seems to be such a significant lack of argument involved. Where she does not tell the reader what she thinks, she shows them. But why does she add an undergraduate in a boat, and why a river? She is doing more than simply trying to keep the reader interested with a few colorful descriptions. She is showing us what she values most about writing while at the same time artfully expressing her views on women and fiction.

Woolf is a modernist, concerned with illuminating life through the subjective consciousness and its impressions. Her seemingly random details and descriptions, in fact, work together to paint a picture, to leave a skillfully crafted impression upon the reader. She believes the best door to the human mind and heart is through the subjective. She places us inside the minds of others, where we, more often than not, find a little of ourselves. Eudora Welty writes, in her foreword to To the Lighthouse, “The inte...

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...onal narrator is scarcely able, scarcely bold enough, to drop a line of thought into these waters. Descriptions of dinners and the construction of buildings give the reader a feel of Woolf’s picture of the world that no sermon, no argument, no plea, could. And it is through a taxi cab, holding a young man and a girl, and the massive force of the river that the entire work seems to float down, that she captures life and convinces us that she is telling the truth.

Works Cited

Welty, Eudora. Introduction. To the Lighthouse. By Virginia Woolf. 1927. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace and Co., 1981. vii-xii.

Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own. The Longman Anthology of Women’s

Literature. Ed. Mary K. DeShazer. New York: Longman, 2000. 16-72.

---. “Modern Fiction.” The Virginia Woolf Reader. Ed. Mitchell A. Leaska. New York:

Harcourt Brace and Co., 1985. 284-291.
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